26 January 2013

Summer, take 2

This is the forecast for the next 10 days - totally makes up for the rain and wind that we had for most of January. The week just been was on and off - nice enough to suck you in and then as soon as you risk a big long walk somewhere the rain sets in. But now I should get plenty of sunshine and swimming in, and by the time the rain sets in I will probably be glad of the break..

Of course, all that sunshine is perhaps going to make it a bit difficult to focus on work. And I have to admit that focus has already been hard to come by. Even when the weather is shitty I am lazy and would rather lie around reading books and watching movies - holiday mode is hard to switch off. Especially when the beach is so close. Today I was out at our local beach, Oreti, and went for a quick swim but something about the tides at the moment have left it full of seaweed, and it's not a very nice swimming beach at the best of times. Colac bay is much nicer, the water is generally so clear. Only problem is that the beach is right on the road and the silly dog won't come swimming with me, she runs away from the waves, so I can't swim for long out of worry that she will decide to cross the road back to the house on her own. She is not wary enough of cars yet to be doing that on her own. So instead with her I have to mostly settle for paddling, and watching her chase seagulls, which she loves.

So speaking of the dog, Cher has gotten all of her puppy spirits back over the last week. Or at least, I hope that is all of them otherwise she may get to be a handful. She still follows me everywhere, but is slowly learning to stay and lets me tie her up outside of shops (though she jumps all over me when I let her loose). She has learnt to sit and lie down and has begun to tear her toys to pieces and destroy the big rawhide bone I got her. She very quickly learnt to stay away from Dad's evil cat but my sister's cat keeps teasing her, I think the cat is curious and wouldn't mind getting closer, but she doesn't like how quickly Cher moves. Last night the cat crept in while Cher was sleeping and the dog woke up and chased her away, then went back to bed. The cat immediately crept back in and rushed straight up to her with her fur all raised and her claws out. I guess that was the cat's revenge. The dog doesn't know what to make of the cat's strange mixture of encouragement and hostility. But at least between all the excitement of scary cats and all the running alongside the bike Cher does, and chasing seagulls, she gets so tired that she sleeps all evening and all night (which you would think would leave me plenty of opportunity to work, right?). She sleeps in the funniest positions, like she will wriggle under a blanket and then curl up in it, but forget to shake it off when she wakes and walk around with the blanket over her like a long cape. Or she goes to sleep after a belly rub, on her back with her back legs splayed out in a very un-ladylike manner and her front legs stretched out all over the place.

Before I go and start to doze off, because it was so hot today that I can hardly move, back to what I was going to say about Oreti beach. Other than all the seaweed, the beach was completely packed full of people, even at 5 pm, which was actually lucky for us. I took my sister and my Mum out, because maybe they wanted to go too but mainly because I didn't want to dog to be lonely when I went for a swim. Rochelle doesn't get to go to the beach much, I'm the only person that takes here. The sand is generally solid enough even for the heavy van, and for her to drive on it in her wheelchair without getting stuck. Except she wants to go close to the water, because she never gets to. Closer and closer. The last two times we went it was fine, but this time she crept even further forward and the tide was on the turn, so of course when a wave washed past her wheels the sand under them turned to complete sludge and she was stuck. From where I was standing I could see Mum tugging on her wheelchair so I guessed what happened and ran over, but the two of us couldn't budge it - the little wheels were almost completely covered and the big wheels where sunk halfway in. If another wave had come it would have probably washed over the motor. Luckily some me parked near to our an had noticed me running over and came to help - big guys with lots of tattoos, really typical kiwi blokes and thank god because if it wasn't for them, we would have been completely screwed. Between the four of us we lifted the chair out (that thing weighs a ton as well) and after that all was well. Except that I had told her not to get so close to the water! And when it was time to leave, I was up the beach introducing Cher to some other dogs and Rochelle came to get me, once again trundling incredibly close to the water line! So now I wonder if that will be the last time we run in to that sort of problem.

20 January 2013

Meet my new friend

Last week I got a dog:

Isn't she gorgeous?  She's a 7 month old golden lab and I got her from this middle aged hippy lady who lives out in the countryside near enough to Colac Bay. She was giving her away because she also owned the mother and sister and 3 dogs was just too much. But she had already named the dog and it didn't seem right to change the name of a dog this age, so her name is Cherokee. But that is a bit of a mouthful really, a dog's name should only have one or two syllables. So I'm shortening it and calling her Cher. I think that sounds like an OK name.

So in order to become my dog Cher had to be taken away from her home and her mother and sister, and in the process she seems to have developed some temporary separation anxiety issues. At first she cried and howled unless I gave her constant attention, or took her for a drive, which seems to send her straight to sleep. She stopped crying soon enough but she hasn't really left my side since then. She likes to have her belly rubbed and to sleep under blankets. She'd never been on a lead before but she seems fine on it, though at first she wouldn't go out the gate - I had to pick her up and carry her out of the property before she would keep walking. I hope that her behaving on the lead isn't temporarily on account of her separation anxiety and that she doesn't start to misbehave as soon as she is feeling better.

She already likes playing fetch, though she gets distracted easily. But still, she's much smarter than the last dog I had (poor thing, he was really awesome despite being stupid), who didn't learn how to bring the ball back and drop it until he was 8 years old. It's just that strong wind and blowing leaves and random sticks are  just as interesting as her ball. Especially sticks. She also has a penchant for cat-poo, which I really don't appreciate. So I will try to train her out of it and see about joining some obedience classes. Maybe some doggy socialisation  classes too because so far she hasn't been very friendly to other dogs. In fact she seems scared of them. Cats too. Though that may have something to do with Dad's cat attacking her every time we drop in there for a visit. She barks when people come into the house, though often she doesn't actually notice them coming in the door so much as she notices them walking through the house some random time later, and starts randomly barking and growling. She growls a lot actually, she's a very grumpy doggy. She especially doesn't like my brother - I'm not sure if it's something inherently about him or because he smells like Dad's evil cat, or because he waves his arms and intimidates her for the fun of it. That's why you can see the poor dog here hiding under the kitchen bench, looking all sad.

Luckily, not all cats are as evil as my Dad's one. My sister's cat (she used to be mine, I picked her up off the street when I was 16 and she ended up staying with us, not to mention she hasn't shut up since) is much more laid back and mostly treats the dog as some strange foreign object - doesn't know whether to be disgusted or to make friends. Cher was afraid of her at first, on account of being attacked by that other awful cat, but she's getting over it now. Besides, the cat pretty much sleeps all day so she's really just part of the furniture.

So now I will have more to talk about than constantly complaining about my PhD thesis. Instead I will bore everybody with constant stories and pictures of my animals. Cats left, right and centre and a grumpy young pup. Oh, and the horse of course...

Nah, just joking. This one lives next door to the Colac Bay house and I feed it apples while Cher barks at it.

14 January 2013

Back to the thesis

Well here I am, out in Colac Bay, attempting to get back to work. I have an ocean view and can constantly hear the sound of waves, and at night time it is dark enough out here that the sky is full of so many bright stars. Unfortunately, it is not overly warm out here so I can't very well go swimming every day, but that's also a bit of a positive note because if it were sunny I would surely want to be outside in the sun reading a book every day. Except that I forgot the charger for my kindle so I have no books to read. Again, probably a positive thing because now the only thing that I can do to keep myself busy is think about my thesis. At least for the time being I'm in a nice quiet environment for thinking, though soon I will have to go back into town to work for a bit so that I have proper internet access. Here is my little study space - not even a desk but so much nicer than my office back in Galway!

So now it's time to get down to work, it's not easy to really get a lot done because I'm still putting together results and I am waiting on some last bits and pieces from various colleagues before they will really be ready. Then it will be a matter of one draft after another that my supervisor will rip to shreds, but hopefully the process won't be too painful. Today my view is a bit dark and the ocean is a dark green and grey instead of blue so I think it might rain. If it is fine later I will go for a walk down the beach though, because just sitting and working the entire day is not good for anyone!

07 January 2013

One sunny day between two weeks of rain

So far this year has been pretty cruisy - one week in and I have done nothing at all. Sadly the weather has mostly gone sour, with lots of rain and cold winds, but summer came back in full force over the weekend and I went out to Colac Bay to make the most of it. Saturday morning was overcast and didn't seem so hot, so I didn't quite get around to putting on sunscreen - that was a bit stupid on my part. But you can see how I would make such a mistake, the view from the front gate that morning was just clouds and more clouds:

It's just a marker of how long I have been away that I expected to be safe on a cloudy day. It doesn't seem to matter that you can't actually see blue sky and sun here, you'll still burn to a crisp. The plan for the day was to go fishing (my plan was not so much to fish as to look around a new beach) - we'd been told that the only place around that would give you any chance of catching fish was way down the edge of the bay near the point, a place called Tihaka. Amazing how different the beach is just because it faces a different direction - while right by the town of Colac bay the beach is sand, down at Tihaka it is a more gravelly, pebbly beach with lots of big rocks.

There was lots of driftwood and broken bits of shell, even really big horse mussels washed up from Stewart Island. It seems that old habits really do die hard and I spent my time on the beach filling my pockets with shiny, colourful pieces of shell. This area of the coast isn't generally where you would expect to see seals or penguins but I did see some shags:

So of course we didn't catch any fish, but that's OK because if we had we'd have had to gut them and stuff. Instead I got sunburnt, all down my back and legs, but it could've been worse and at least I'm getting my NZ tan back. By the time that we decided to turn back towards the car my poor legs were exhausted from traipsing over the constantly moving pebbles and gravel and I was all scratched up from climbing up rocks to get a good view. It was worth it though, you could see Stewart Island clear as day from there. Photos don't really do it justice, it was much bigger in real life.

After making our way back down the beach and climbing over a hill and some farmer's field in order to avoid jumping over a slippery chasm on the rocks, but in the process having to wade through a creek and some really swampy grass and prickles, it was definitely time for a swim. The water was great - colder than the last week but once you were in it was really good. Then the day was nearly over and it was time to fire up the pizza oven in the back yard (I know, how cool is that, our own wood-fired pizza oven!). Of course, my dad being in charge meant that nobody had bothered looking up instructions and it wasn't really 100% successful. The first pizza looked cooked, but the base was still completely raw. I've looked it up since and I reckon the fire in it was way too big, so that the pizza burnt around the edges before it could be cooked properly.

Anyway, we solved that problem by precooking the bases. There was still a bit of charring around the edges, but they were edible at least. It was a rather lenghty procedure just for a slice of pizza.

All of that was just Saturday, and Sunday brought more mediocre weather (though it was better than the heavy rain that I am watching out the window right now). Sunday is touch practice and it is so much harder than tag rugby was. What makes it worse is that half of the players that I can't keep up with are at least 20 years older than me. Makes me feel awfully unfit, even though I'm not really at all.

Anyway, the weekend is over now and I think it's high time that I get my A into G and start working again. My thesis is not even half finished and if I ever want it to be over I'm going to have to get down to some serious writing (and thinking, that's the bit that I've been trying to avoid...). Still, distractions are great so right now my focus is on buying a new laptop - I mean, the one I'm using now is OK, but it has gotten really slow and it freezes a lot and it doesn't handle big things like huge word documents and photoshop so well. Plus a new computer would be so nice and fast and shiny. And small - I'm looking at either a MacAir or a Sony Vaio ultrabook so that it will be easier to take my computer (and thus potentially my work) anywhere with me. Maybe that will encourage me to work harder? Only I can't quite decide what I want...

01 January 2013

Hello 2013...

December's over and yes, I wore a dress every day (although personally there are a few that I would call tops or jumpers, but other people say 'what a nice dress' so I will take their word for it and call them dresses). Now for a new challenge - I just found this and I think I have to do it, for the sake of having yet another distraction when I should be writing my PhD thesis: Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge. Besides, the weather has packed up and while I hope it gets better, it's good to have a pile of books for just in case it doesn't. With it suddenly being so cold and rainy going out to Colac Bay and the beach for New Years was no longer an appealing idea - much better to stay inside at home, dressed up warm with some movies and good food. Hopefully the new year brings back our gorgeous summer weather because my tan was only just starting to come back, and I have only been swimming in the ocean twice so far.